The following request recently came to me:
Would you mind sharing your thoughts on 1 Corinthians 13:1; 14:2 and the issue of speaking in tongues. My brother is a Pentecostal, and we have discussed this issue (along with several other issues) at length. I have pointed out that tongues is being able to speak in other languages, which he agrees with but then he says it is also speaking in the tongue of angels — saying his spirit is speaking to God — as he points out in the verses above. Can you offer some insight on what the "tongues of angels," 13:1, and "For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries," 14:2?
First, though Paul is using hyperbolic (exaggerated) language to stress a point in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, he gives no comfort to modern Pentecostalism. Men do have tongues, or languages (Acts 2:4, 6, 8, 11; 1 Corinthians 13:1). Those tongues, or languages, are not incoherent, multi-syllable jibber jabber. Rather, they are coherent, comprehensible languages, as Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 clearly show.
(Compare Cornelius and his household who spoke in tongues. Those present knew the languages spoken, for they knew they were magnifying God [Acts 10:46]. However, they could not have known if they were magnifying or maligning God if they had not understood the languages. See 1 Corinthians 14:9, 16 — "except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken….how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned [‘the unlearned’ one is simply the one who does not know the language spoken-LRH] say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?" Further, we know the languages spoken by Cornelius ["the Gentiles"] were understandable, for Peter said it reminded him of "the beginning" at Pentecost, and we know those languages were understood by those who heard them [Acts 2:4-11].)
Continue reading » Contending for the Faith: Thoughts on Speaking in Tongues